What are your sketching shortcuts?

Hi Designers,

Just wondering what your shortcuts/tried and true methods are when sketching? Is there a go to perspective view that you use? A trusty underlay that just wont go away? Do you use pre-prepared grids or any other type of resource? What type of guides do you use? Sitting down to a stack of white paper, where do you start? What do you do? What method do you use to get going?

There are no shortcuts. The only way to start is by putting down the first stroke.
I don’t use guides either. Sometimes I use template underlays for perspective setting, for vehicles I print features like grille, drop shadow, wheel arches, glasshouse in black so you don’t have to fill it in manually. A light box helps too for tracing.

You can use an underlay if you know you’re going to be sketching iterations of the same design & angle (helpful for cars where you don’t want to keep filling in wheels, but the flip side of that is if you don’t constantly draw wheels you’ll never be good at drawing ellipses).

Depending on what I’m sketching I like to sometimes use a 20% gray marker to start. It lets me be really broad and loose and see if the thing in my head makes any sense and put down some perspective guidelines before jumping back to ball point. The light gray can be quickly taken out in photoshop with a quick levels tweak if I need to.

If i want to do a tighter sketch - i will sometime lay down a few CAD surfaces to ensure i am 95% dimensional accurate and blend them into the sketch- but i only do this after my initial rough sketches and have a clear understanding of where i want to take that concept.

Or in reverse if i have several hard engineering points (other then LxWxH) i use the CAD data to create a under lay.

I like to sketch really quickly and loosely when ideating. They’re not at the quality I’d present to clients with, but are fine when communicating to another designer. I used to draw in perspective all the time, but have found that sometimes a 10-second profile sketch is enough to get an idea across. Then I have like 20 of these thumbnails on a single page!

Sketching on post-it notes is great, too. One idea per note, stick them on a wall, and move them around/group them to develop additional ideas.

I sometimes switch media if I’m getting to constrained, specially during ideation. I’ll go back and forth between pencil, pen and gray marker w/pen & sketchbook pro. I try not to use templates at the beginning so that I don’t get too constrained.

Like others have mentioned, once I need to create presentation drawings or proportions need to be correct then I’ll use a 3D CAD template. You can reduce the opacity to 10-30% and print multiple pages and then just sketch over them. I’ll use my loose ideation sketches and modify them to fit the proportions. If it’s a simple model or basic geometry I’ll even create renderings and digitally sketch over them.

Whatever works.

I don’t have anything pre-prepared for a certain sketch, but I’ll use absolutely anything that helps me sketch it better or faster. Underlays, guides, roughing the shape out with light gray marker, sketchbook line and predictive stroke tools, whiting parts of the sketch out, scanning and sketching over the top etc.

Whatever gets it done better, faster or both.

Best shortcut, practice. :slight_smile:

Practice, yes.
I also find that when I get stuck, unsure, or just want a new perspective, reversing the sketch often helps.

Isn’t practice the opposite of a shortcut? It’s what you try to cut down with shortcuts.

It depends on your point of view. If you practice all the time, then when you have to do something for a client to communicate an idea you do it in 1/4 the time, twice as good, for three times as much. I’ll take that short cut any day.

If you practice all the time

But that’s the important part. I don’t get paid to practice sketching. I get paid to design stuff. If I spend less time practicing by taking shortcuts I have more time to actually make money with design. Otherwise I would mainly be an illustrator.

My main shortcut is the massive use of any sort of underlay I can find. Also outsourcing the sketches to the intern works pretty well :smiley:

I hancent found any of that to be true, but to each their own. :slight_smile:

I don’t think of underlays or things like that as short cuts, they are techniques.

astute observation! drawing/sketching and design are separate skills albeit ones that seem complementary or parallel but not really; one could be good at one and not the other…kinda like a rapper’s ability to spontaneously freestyle vs. actually make a song; impressive to see but kinda unrelated really to the business of making the end product…

sketching does help with the communication/visualization but i guess everyone’s process is different

Ding, ding, ding.

We have a winner.

How much do you get paid to be out of practice? All experts practice their skills. Athletes train, musicians and actors rehearse. Investing in a little practice time always pays dividends. Of course you can have the intern do it… and I’ll outsource renders and final presentation materials as needed, but the thinking sketches, the ones where I’m working out the idea, those are important. Everyone’s workflow is different of course, I tend to think on the page.

Nothing wrong with developing techniques to improve your sketching… those take practice as well.

Frequency impoves efficacy.

I get paid to think not sketch – sketching one way or another, faster, slower, good, bad, doesn’t make me think faster or better or make me more efficient as a designer.

I agree with Dan Lewis.
“All experts practice their skills”. I do, I am a designer, I train designing stuff every single day (well, monday to friday). That is my skill. My employer pays me to tell our enginneers what I want and how I want it. I do a LOT of this with sketches. But my boss doesn’t give a shit if I sketch my designs or dance them. The sketches I do are mostly rough dooodles, usually no perspective, no details, nothing and most of them are done within a few seconds. I don’t think you need to have good technical sketching skills at all to “think on the page”. Even most of our engineers do it without any formal drawing training. Those thinking doodles are nothing you will ever show to a client. Usually we show them prototypes. If we need fancy marker renderings the intern will do it. But honestly? I don’t think most clients give a shit either if you give them pretty sketches or not. I don’t remember a time a client actually got really excited about a sketch. A physical prototype makes them always around a thousand times more happy, guaranteed. How often do you practice your skills at design model building? When was the last time you were sanding foam to get the shape juuuuuust right? Isn’t that an essential design skill as well?

Yeah, many people seem to think “good sketch” = “good design”. Churning out cars and sneakers on a daily basis that all kinda look the same (which is what 90% of instagram famous designers do) - that’s not design, that’s a partytrick. Where are the ideas? Where is the innovation? Being a designer means having a specific mindset, not having perfect lineweight.

Quote of the century. A sketch or CAD model or foam model in and of itself is worthless. Only ideas which are realised have any value, which is the entire purpose of a Product Designer.

Literally the ask is how to get better at sketching guys (or using shortcuts to be exact)…